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Lov Ain’t Jesus

Posted on November 29, 2007 in Agnosticism Social Media

square416Regular readers know how this agnostic likes to tweak the noses of atheists. I want it to go on record that I do not condone attacks on atheists or any other group of believers that either do them physical harm or prevent them from expressing their point of view. Such an attack happened on Myspace recently when the atheists/agnostics group run by Bryan Pesta was hacked and renamed “Jesus is lov”:

jesusislov.JPG

The 3000 “friends” of the group are gone.

The regular posters on the group’s message board have been banned.

Many discussion threads were deleted.

I can’t even access the renamed group.

Bryan is working on getting his group back, but things aren’t looking bright.
He told me he was having difficult getting customer service at MySpace to listen to him.

First, I want to state that I am not sure that “Christian” terrorists are to blame here, though it wouldn’t surprise me either. This seems like an adolescent prank. I don’t think you will find any minister or even a person who attends church regularly on Sunday. On the other hand, Christianity is full of self-appointed “ministers of the Gospel” who think it is their duty to silence all opposition/criticism. We need more facts.

Second, this could be a troll. Trolling is specifically designed to get people fighting and from the looks of things at Friendly Atheist, the war has begun in earnest. Atheists are taking the bait and the perpetrator is no doubt laughing histrionically. Classically terrorism is calculated to inspire fear. Even though the damage is relatively small as far as impact on their daily lives, atheists/agnostics are looking over their shoulders, wondering if the next step is going to be a physical attack on their computers or themselves. A troll is a special kind of terrorism: the object is to inspire the kind of fear that causes the victim to lash out blindly. “Damn those Christians! Let’s get ’em!”

Third, a classic net issue has arisen, namely getting people at Myspace to do something. At FA I said that this was probably due to “a bunch of second-rate techies who like to sit on their asses not solving problems”. Oh, they say, we’ll have to go down and find the tape backup. Then we’ll have to close down Myspace while we restore the group. Ya-de-dah-de-dah. The response to this is “There are 34,000 people affected by this. Do it.” It’s like not rebuilding the World Trade Center or not flying after the 9-11 attacks. When you allow a terrorist’s works to stand and the terrorist to go unpunished (oh where oh where has Bin Laden gone?), you encourage further acts of terrorism.

Fourth, We should not rule out the possibility that this was done by an atheist/agnostic who wanted to inspire a jihad of his own. Small chance, but it points to the importance of not charging ahead without more facts. Stick to what is known. The focus should be on restoring the group. That means getting Myspace moving on repairing the problem.

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Atheist Psychiatrists and Good Medicine

Posted on September 3, 2007 in Agnosticism Depression Grief

square340A new study out of the University of Chicago reports that psychiatrists are likely to be the least religious type of doctor and that religious doctors, especially Protestants, are more likely to send a potentially ill patient to a clergyman or a religious counselor than to a psychiatrist.

The atheist world should be abuzz with concern and I, an agnostic, am one to join them. I have seen what religious counselling does to patients with mood disorders. I do not recommend them:

“A patient presents to you with continued deep grieving two months after the death of his wife. If you were to refer the patient, to which of the following would you prefer to refer first” (a psychiatrist or psychologist, a clergy member or religious counselor, a health care chaplain, or other).”

Overall, 56 percent of physicians indicated they would refer such a patient to a psychiatrist or psychologist, 25 percent to a clergy member or other religious counselor, 7 percent to a health care chaplain and 12 percent to someone else.

Although Protestant physicians were only half as likely to send the patient to a psychiatrist, Jewish physicians were more likely to do so. Least likely were highly religious Protestants who attended church at least twice a month and looked to God for guidance “a great deal or quite a lot.”

“Patients probably seek out, to some extent, physicians who share their views on life’s big questions,” Curlin said. That may be especially true in psychiatry, where communication is so essential. The mismatch in religious beliefs between psychiatrists and patients may make it difficult for patients suffering from emotional or personal problems to find physicians who share their fundamental belief systems.

Personally, I wonder about the doctors who avoid referring them: are they up to snuff on their medicine or are these backwoods GPs whose suspicions of modern medicine manifest in other ways in their practice? I have known people to give up their meds on the advice of a faith healer and consequently end up arrested after embarking on wild sprees. The problem is that many patients are looking for magical answers and when they are offered reality-based somatic therapy (replete with side effects) they balk.

Curlin seems to promote a model where the patient sets the therapy. While I do not believe in forced medication except where the patient is gravely impaired by her/his illness, I also feel that a wise patient works with the psychiatrist on a series of experiments designed to find an effective treatment for the illness. Religious talk therapy alone just does not work that well for severe depression and bipolar disorder. It’s practitioners are either woefully ignorant of what psychiatry can do or deliberately hostile lest they lose “souls” — translation: paying customers.

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